General Ford woke with a start. “Who are... what are you? You're a Martian spy!” he exclaimed as he reached for his missing weapon.
It had taken Rority's nobots two days to reach Venus, and he was a little cranky from the trip. He hadn't liked learning Venusian and didn't much care for the Venusians themselves. Big ugly bastards, he thought. Evil looking, unlike the Controls or Martians, who just looked goofy. He took a toke from his stratodoober.
“No, I'm not a Martian,” he said, “and you know I'm not. I'm an Earthian. And you're in deep shit, buddy, you know that?”
Ford was speechless. Rority continued. “Your boss is batshit insane; my people have studied him. Off his rocker, lost his marbles, toys in the attic, mad as a hatter, and a hundred other ancient cliches. He's nuts and his selfish greed is about to destroy Venus for you, dumbass.”
“Wrong, alien. We're going to destroy you and the Martians. And I've seen Earthians and you're not one.”
Rority laughed. “I'm not one you've seen; we live under-ground in a simulated existence, and we like it that way. And you poor fools are two hundred years behind the Martians and about two million years behind us. Compared to you pathetic Venuslings, we're gods.”
Ford sneered. “Mars will fall in two weeks.”
“Nope, we've intercepted all your warships; their crews are all dead, poisoned from all the gamma radiation. Would you like those rocks to fall on Venus? We control them now. We have things you haven't even dreamed of. We can get to Zeta Reticuli in a few days, and most of that time is getting out of the solar system and past the Oort cloud; warping space messes up gravity quite a bit, so we can only go a fraction of lightspeed anywhere near something as massive as a small planet.”
“What are you going to do?”
“First, I'm taking your place. Second, unless an unknown something makes us change our minds, we're going to kill that madman, and you'll be in charge of Venus. And I'm warning you, we can kill you as easily as we can kill Washington.”
Rority's nobotic robot changed into Ford himself. “So you see, poor pitiful Venusling, you'd better stop messing with the other planets in the solar system.”
“You're the ones who killed everybody in the southern hemisphere!” Ford said, and lunged at Rority.
Lunging at Rority wasn't a very smart thing to do, seeing as how Rority wasn't really Rority, but rather a nobotic simulation of Rority. With a flying leap Ford hit Rority and bounced off as if he'd hit a steel beam that was bolted to the floor, which wasn't very much unlike hitting a nobotic robot.
“No,” Rority said calmly as he helped the poor hapless Venusian off the floor. “There was a supernova, we aren't sure where yet. The southern hemispheres of all the inhabited solar planets are now devoid of life; yours, mine, the Martians'. Except Earth, we who live underground were well shielded.
“And Washington knows the Martians didn't do it, even though he doesn't know about us yet. Now, you're going to wait here while I go stand next to him at his speech. Unfortunately, he's going to have heart failure.”
Rority walked out. Ford tried the door, which was of course locked. He sat back down on the bed, worried. This was surreal!
Rority was thinking about the similarities between Venus and certain protohuman countries he'd “traveled” back to. Like Korea about seventy AB, and this Washington ghoul seemed like the northern Korea's dictator... and a few other countries and dictators back then as well.
“Dumb animals,” he thought.
Back on Mars, Colonel Gorn was talking with Gumal. “Damned frustrating, those Venusians,” Gorn said. “We're about research, and these idiots only want to wage war!”
“How did the trouble start, Colonel?” Gumal asked, trying to not hyperventilate in the thin, oxygen-rich Martian air.
“Venus is... well, I guess before the supernova, was greatly overpopulated. We're not, and never have been. Venusians want nothing but war and sex, we're about gathering scientific and mathematical knowledge. That's what our ancestors came to Mars for in the first place.
“The Venusians just like to kill. They have no laws against violence, even murder; their laws are only about property and politics. They'll kill anything that gets in their way without a second thought, even without a first thought.
“They used to be better at war than sex, which held their population down, but they pretty much bombed themselves almost to the point of extinction and lost almost all their technology. All they could do after that was eat and copulate. What tech they have now was mostly stolen from us.”
“So, they never lost space travel?”
“Actually, they did. We were stupid enough to try and help them through their trouble, and now they're trying to take over the solar system and kill us all.”
“Well, Colonel, you'll be relieved to know that we have the situation well under control and you can get back to your test tubes.”
Gumal laughed. “Sorry, I've been hanging around Rority too much. Say, Colonel, have you ever had beer?”
Gorn looked puzzled. “Beer? No, what is it?”
Gumal pulled out a Guinness and handed it to the Colonel. “Something Rority discovered on ancient Earth.”
“What's it for?” asked Colonel Gorn, examining the bottle. “Looks like glass with some sort of liquid inside, and an indescipherable label.”
“It's for drinking.”
“Oh, thank you anyway, but we have plenty of water.”
Gumal smiled. “Well, it isn't exactly water. Actually, it's nothing like water even though it mostly is water. Try some.” He opened his own bottle and took a sip of the delicious nectar.
“UGH!” said Gorn, after taking a sip. “This is offal! You drink this disgusting stuff??”
“The taste grows on you, and you don't drink it for the taste, anyway. I propose a toast!”
“Uh, what's a toast?” Gorn asked.
“We clink bottles and take a drink together. It's magic, and the magic is from the ethyl alcohol in it.”
“You drink ethanol? Alcohol is toxic, no wonder it tastes so bad!”
“Well, yeah, drink enough and you'll die. But we're not drinking that much.”
“Sorry, old fellow, I don't think I want to poison myself.”
Gumal shrugged. “More for me. Want a hit off this stratodoober?”
“I'd rather learn how nobots work.”
“Sorry, wrong guy. That isn't my field. Here,” he said, hitting the stratodoober and handing it to Gorn.
“Hmmm...” said Gorn after taking a toke. “Pleasant taste... uh, what were we talking about again?”
33 - Venus and Mars
35 - Acrux